“Last night I dreamt about your girls. You were in the house and they came along the top road. They were so full of smiles and excitement at the idea they might see you again. They’d ridden their bikes all the way from their house and they stood and waited for just a mere glimpse of you.”
It was a stupid thing to tell him. A dream. A dream for Pete’s sake. It wasn’t useful. It wouldn’t bring them back to him. They didn’t come by his house and they weren’t waiting to see him and they certainly weren’t full of smiles. Not anymore. Not the last time he’d seen them anyway. His girls. His two beautiful girls. All red hair and freckles, goofy adolescent teeth and awkward clothing. He remembered when they did smile when they saw him. He remembered when they were like that.
He’d planned his walk this morning along the road to where the blackberries grew wild and free. It was a busy road, but about two thirds of the way along the bushes grew like desperate hands held out to the passing cars and lorries, and here he knew he could spend a little time quietly pulling the little black fruits from their temporary homes one by one. Some of them needed a little tug, but others fell at the slightest touch, as if they’d given up holding on any longer.
He’d told his sister a few times now that there was no point going on anymore, not without his girls. At first she’d been desperately worried about him, but now she just sighed and told him not to be so selfish and that his girls would understand what had happened one day and they’d need him then. But he couldn’t stand his existence without them. Day after day after day of an emptiness he just couldn’t fill. He’d tried drinking more wine, he’d tried working longer hours, but nothing fit the space they left behind when their mother took them away from him.
He stood by the side of the road now and felt the artificial breeze the lorries created as they sped past him. His back was hunched slightly as he leaned over to the blackberry bushes and pulled at the perfect little fruit. He held his bowl under the bush for the ones that let go and free-fell from their place of safety. He watched and wondered how it felt.
“They waited.” she’d said. “But you wouldn’t come out, and then when you finally did they’d gone.”
It was just a dream. Just a stupid dream. But still, he hadn’t been able to shake his sister’s words. She’d stopped telling him to be patient and that his girls would know the truth one day. She’d stopped trying to say the right thing and now it was laid as bare as the blackberry bush when the fruit was all picked. He leaned a little further to reach the biggest, juiciest berries from the top. The lorries behind him unstoppable and dense. The berries giving just the slightest resistance to his touch.
Samantha Priestley is the author of the Folded Word short-fiction chapbooks Dreamers (2014) andOrange Balloon(2016). She’s a novelist, playwright, and essayist who spins words into gold from her home in Sheffield, UK.
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